Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Is Art Language?

Art is Language and language is art....or not?
According to Wikipedia, Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so, and a language is any specific example of such a system. The scientific study of language is called linguistics.



A Day at the Zoo
It's been 7 years now since my brain tumor journey began.  I will openly admit there have been many times I've wanted to give up trying to get back to where I was & what I had achieved professionally. But I've kept going.  Before the tumor, I liked to paint animals & was good enough to sell a few pieces now & then.  In a good gallery, occasionally accepted into nationally juried shows - my purpose was obvious in that I wanted to get better. Honestly, I had never thought about my purpose much beyond the fact I like to paint.

Art is highly subjective whether making it or simply viewing.  I can no longer say "I just like it" when asked about why I paint.  What I've learned after having experienced aphasia is that art is about language.  It's a part of my language.  I want my art to speak to the language of animals - their communication with us, other animals and their environment.  Watching them move, make decisions, interact - it's all with a language that doesn't use written or spoken words.  Body language, eye contact, vocal sounds are all ways of communicating.  You just have to watch & listen.

Now my purpose is more defined.  It's always been there - I just needed to be able to articulate it for myself.
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"Out From the Shadows"  He may have just awakened from a nap.  He may be wanting to feel the warm sun.  In any case, he's not just coming out from the shadows - he's made a decision to get up & move.  Maybe he just wants to get some fresh air.  All I can do is speculate.  He's old - getting up can be painful.  But he keeps going & I think he's beautiful.  This reference photo was taken shortly before they retired him from the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum because the steep rocks in his enclosure were hard on his old joints.  Wherever he is, I wish him warmth & comfort.


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"Morning View - Vermilion Flycatcher " - Whether it's my view from the kitchen window or his view from the hanging mesquite branch our morning view says a lot about what kind of day we'll have.  He's obviously watching for insects in the grass below while I'm waiting for the water to boil for my first cup of tea.  I hope his view leads him to what he wants.  
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The more I think about it the more I believe that all art is a form of language.  Some of it will speak to you and some of it won't.  It doesn't have to be profound, I certainly don't think of mine as profound.  From cave paintings done thousands of years ago to street art on the walls of our inner cities and the canvases hanging in the great museums - it all has something significant to say. What the artist says and what the viewer sees may not be the same and more often than not they will never meet, yet both can feel something or learn something. 

All of the work included in this post is available at the CasaBella Fine Art Gallery in Tucson, AZ.
Thank you for taking time to view my work & I hope you have a good day.



Friday, June 24, 2016

Madi's Moving

The frustration in not getting detail I liked from the lilies I posted in my last blog grew after publishing the post.  Over the years I've wanted to get looser in my strokes only to find that I would always gravitate toward trying to get the detail right.  The day after that post I thought I would try to paint a quick study of my son’s dog Madi.  The goal was loose brush strokes and getting her color right.  As I painted, I became more & more frustrated with the quality of my work.  I decided then that I wanted a good quality painting of Madi....by the end of the month she was going to be moving with the rest of her family to another state.

Madi’s move means that my son, his wife & children are moving.  I've always felt so blessed that my first grandchildren were living in town.  Frequent visits, sleepovers & babysitting were like the perfect drug for alleviating the frustrations I get from my health issues.  It’s going to be hard being in Tucson without all of them.  I will have more time to paint but ...... I would rather they stay. 

Back to the painting....  My tremor isn't that bad on most days.  I do have to wipe away strokes as I go & work a little harder to get them right but I think it will be worth it to keep going with detail until I just don’t want to anymore.  On days that the tremor is bad, I’ll just do something else besides paint. 

It took a week to get Madi’s painting done.  There are a few things I would like to touch up on her but I have to leave it for now.  I was only able to work on it a little at a time because we've been helping get ready for the move.  Brain fatigue happens not just with physical activity but also mental activity.  It can be problem solving, conversing with others or emotional stress (both positive and negative) that leaves people with brain injuries fatigued. The only thing that works once the fatigue sets in is rest.   

This ends the self imposed challenge to do a painting everyday for the month of June.  On Monday we leave to help with the move so I'll be away from my studio for the rest of the month.  I follow a few daily painters & always thought it would be a fun thing to try & it was, but it's not for me.  It leaves little time in a day to work on my larger paintings.

Wishing all of you a Happy 4th & thank you for reading my blog. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Daily Painting = Daily Changes

Distractions change the journey - the direction shifts and the journey evolves.  On the 8th day of my challenge I bought a beautiful bouquet of lilies.  I thought I would paint one flower from the bouquet each day until they were all dead.  The first day, as much as I liked painting the flower, I wasn't happy with the result so I wiped it off.  The next day I decided to paint the whole bouquet.

I have a tremor that makes fine detail work difficult.  My mahl stick doesn't help because the shaking is in my fingers.  It's a distraction.  As difficult as it is, I keep going and after the second day this was the result.  I see the shaking from my fingers in the attempts to get the detail of the flowers.  But for some reason, I like it.  At least I like it enough to share it here.

I've had the tremor for quite awhile and my neurologist believes that it is probably due to genetics and not the tumor.  I agree with her since my mother had tremors.  They used to be occasional but have become more noticeable when I paint so I googled "painting with tremors."  I'm not alone.  There are a few things I can try but they aren't going to go away & I'm not sure I want to increase any of my medications. 

I've always liked painting fine detail - mostly because I could.  Getting the details in an eye or flower was challenging and I was proud of my ability to pull it off, but it isn't something that drives my creative energy.  There are worse things & hell, I survived a brain infection so I'm not going to let a tremor get in the way of my creativity.  I let the painting sit for a couple of days & did a little touch up.  I still like it so I took it to my photographer yesterday to get a better pic.

Tomorrow I'm going to paint in spite of the tremor & instead of trying so hard to control & correct it, we'll just see what happens.  Stay tuned............. :)

In my search about Essential Tremors I found a very interesting TED talk:
           Embrace the Shake by Phil Hansen

Thank you for your time!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day 7

It's too hot to paint outside in Tucson this time of year.  So this morning I set up my plein air easel in the living room & painted a pot of flowering lantana I could see from a window.  I'm pleased with this for a few reasons - a big one being that since I've changed my medication protocol, I can think more clearly in the mornings.  A bigger reason - I didn't feel the need to scrape it off.

There are many types of artists out there & everyone of them has to figure out what "success" means individually.  Before my tumor, I was very happy with the success I had achieved.  I hadn't yet reached a point with my painting where I wanted to be but I thought I could if I continued to work at it.  I had been invited to participate in an exciting invitational exhibition, I was getting accepted into some of the prestigious shows I was applying to & I was doing commissions.  I still wasn't selling a lot & I was getting just as many rejections as acceptances but I could call myself a professional artist.

While going through my slump, I've had to redefine what I thought of as success.  Success for me has nothing to do with shows & sales.  It has everything to do with whether or not I like what I'm producing.... being able to paint something & say "look what I can do".  The rejections that I've gotten during the last couple of years were followed by relief because I didn't really like the paintings anyway.  Technically speaking, my execution was okay & other people would say they liked them but there was always something I didn't like.

I like this one.  I see a few things wrong with it but I'd rather not say what they are.  But after 7 days - 3 keeps, 3 wipe offs, & 1 day off to go swimming with the grand kids - I think I'll keep going for now.

Thank you for your time & Have a great day :)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Day 5

After only 4 days, I'm understanding why I haven't been painting.  Scraped off day 2 & day 3 but decided to keep day 4 in spite of the fact that I'm not too happy with the results.  Yesterday was a BBD.  Today is much better.  Feels good to have painted yesterday in spite of how I felt - I think that's why I want to keep it....



 
We're taking the grand kids swimming today so I doubt that I will make it into my studio but I'm going to take my sketch book with me so we'll see what happens.  Hope everyone has a great day :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Daily Painting.... one day at a time

Daily painting - other people do it - so I think I might give it a try.  Today I painted a stuffed bunny my grand kids play with when they visit.  For many reasons I won't bore you with, it's been a long time since I blogged about my tumor and it's impact on my art.  One thing I've noticed in all this time, I don't paint as often as I did before my diagnosis.  I get distracted easily - not a surprise to those of you who know me.  So it's time for something different & I think daily painting might be just the thing.

I might not be able to paint everyday because I still have what's been referred to as Bad Brain Days.  In spite my BBDs, I'm entering the world of daily painting with a few caveats: it probably won't be everyday, I might use the time for experimentation, it might be a sketch & it might be something I wipe off as soon as I'm done. The point is dedicated time (about 1 hour or a little more) to paint something different & then blog about the results. 

All that said and with day 1 under my belt, I think I'm off to a pretty good start.  This little bunny is something that I might want to work into a completed painting.  I don't know how long this will last so like many other things in life, I'm going to take this one day at a time.

Thank you for your time & I hope you're having a great day!
barbaraconaway.com/

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Color Studies - Connecting Art & Science

Over two years now & it still feels like I'm recovering, although I am beginning to enjoy some of the aspects of my 'new normal'. I used to always think of my numerous interests as conflicted. The connection between my painting & choice of animal as subject was obvious.  But before the BT, I thought of  science and math as just something that was interesting & never made the connection between my art & science.

Looking for purpose in my art has brought me back to my interest in science and re-awakened my inner nerd. Especially when I think about color.

My bachelor degree in electrical engineering came about because of my interest in math and science - the opportunities to get a good job were unquestionable. Working in the field though gave me a good understanding of why a career should be based on something you love to do and I didn't love it. I took a voluntary lay off and went to work helping in my husband's veterinary practice. This gave me time to pursue my real passion - art.

original chart created on a 24" x 30" canvas
Having had the opportunity to study the physics and math of color in college gave me an understanding of color that has transcended the connection between my love of art and my love of science. While taking an oil painting class the teacher strongly suggested making color charts in order to study how the colors blend when mixed.




'Time Out', oil on linen 14x11"- using colors from the chart above
One of the most interesting discoveries I made doing these charts was that the colors used to mix flesh are the same as the colors used to mix earth. All coming from a light source that is bending, refracting and reflecting – the study of color is like playing in a candy store with a very large puzzle. The colors on a palette can be scientifically analyzed and emotionally labeled to create the warm and cool vibrations used to represent life on a two dimensional surface. Wow. I love this stuff.

Color will always dominate my paintings. When thinking about the language of art, for me, color is the voice with which I speak. No wonder I liked playing with crayons and finger paint so much as a child.

In any art, science plays a huge part in both the creation and the message 
- whether you think about it or not :)